My Mama’s Savory Braised Brisket

This wonderfully savory and tender brisket was unplanned. I was browsing the aisles at Trader Joe’s and realized that they stock a much larger selection of meats than I’d ever noticed before. I saw lamb legs, pork loins, all types of roasts, and then I saw it. A brisket. Into my cart it went, mostly out of nostalgia but also because I’ve been wanting to cook a big hunk of beef.

I immediately called my mom to share my discovery and ask for her delicious brisket recipe. My mom cooked brisket a lot when I was growing up, mostly for holidays, but sometimes for regular dinners too. I wasn’t a big meat eater back then, so I almost always passed on the brisket except when she convinced me to taste a little. The sauce and flavors were delicious, but actually eating the meat put me off. Now that I’m a born-again carnivore, I knew I had to cook her version for myself.

Once the recipe sharing was over with, my mom asked me how much my brisket weighed. Hmmm. Let me check the label… 2.83 pounds. And then I saw it. “I JUST PAID $24 FOR THIS BRISKET!” “Well,” my mom said, “you better not ruin it.” (I’m not usually fiscally irresponsible. It’s just that I’d recently compared prices between Trader Joe’s and Safeway, and TJ’s lower costs must have lulled me into a false sense of security). Fortunately, the brisket turned out to be worth every penny. Apparently, kosher briskets are more expensive than regular briskets, and $5 per pound is a more typical price.

My mom recommends cooking brisket a day in advance because the excess fat is easier to skim and the meat is easier to slice when everything is cold. Follow this advice! When you’re ready to start cooking, preheat your oven to 350ºF. To make the sauce, whisk together 1 cup of ketchup (sounds gross, I know, but it’s oh so good), 2 cups of water, 1/2 cup of red wine, 2 teaspoons of smoked paprika, 1 teaspoon of cayenne pepper, 1 teaspoon of black pepper, 1 teaspoon of salt, and 1/2 teaspoon of ground ginger. (Starting now, I will include an ingredient list at the bottom of each post to make shopping easier). Mince 4 garlic cloves, dice 1 onion, and add those to the mixture as well.

Optionally, you can add mushrooms to the pot to serve as a side, but I cooked my mushrooms separately. Place your brisket in an oven-proof pot, and pour in the sauce. Cover the pot tightly, and let the brisket cook in the oven for 3 hours.

You should be able to pierce the brisket with a fork when it is done. You should also notice a thick layer of fat on top of the sauce. If you plan to serve your brisket immediately, skim it off. Otherwise, let the pot come to room temperature, and then refrigerate it either for a few hours or overnight.

Once the brisket has cooled, the fat it released when it cooked will have solidified. It’s eerily similar to crayon wax. Eliminate it immediately. Use a spoon to scoop the fat out of the pot. Here’s a game- try to remove the fat in as few pieces as possible…surprisingly fun.

Much better.

Remove the brisket to a cutting board for slicing. It is important to slice brisket against the grain so that it’s easier to chew. See the fibers of meat on the left of the brisket? You want to cut against them, not with them. In other words, I sliced my brisket along its longer edge. The carving is easiest to do with a long, serrated knife.

Slice the brisket as thinly as you can. Then, add it back into the pot to reheat with the sauce.

Be careful not to leave your meat within reach of any scavenging puppies. The brisket smells so good that they won’t be able to resist.

I served my brisket with mashed potatoes, roasted carrots, and roasted mushrooms. It was heavenly and homey. Eating it was like getting a hug. I’ll be getting a lot of hugs because there are a lot of leftovers! Some are destined for tasty sandwiches, and others will head to the freezer for a day when hugs are especially needed.

Shopping list:

  • Brisket
  • Onion- 1
  • Garlic- 4 cloves
  • Ketchup- 1 cup
  • Red wine- 1/2 cup
  • Smoked paprika- 2 teaspoons
  • Cayenne pepper- 1 teaspoon
  • Black pepper- 1 teaspoon
  • Salt- 1 teaspoon
  • Ground ginger- 1/2 teaspoon
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